Opponents to watch: Calderon is hope for defense amid quarterback crisis

Myah Taylor

A shootout loss to potential playoff contender LSU last Saturday and a slew of injuries plaguing its roster are setbacks Texas must recover from soon. But before the Longhorns take on the Big 12 starting next Saturday, they will have the opportunity to rebound against a struggling Rice team with individual talent on defense and question marks at quarterback.

Here are four Owls players to watch for on Saturday: 

No. 14 Tom Stewart — Quarterback

Rice will most likely be without its starting quarterback against Texas this weekend. In the Owls’ loss to Wake Forest in Week Two, redshirt freshman Wiley Green was scrambling toward the pylon when a collision left him with serious head and neck injuries. Green’s tests have since come back negative, but it is unlikely that he will play Saturday. Enter Tom Stewart, a graduate transfer from Harvard who didn’t get much action under center until last season. Stewart started nine games for the Crimson last year, throwing 14 touchdowns and leading the Ivy League in yards per completion at 15.23. After Green went down last week, Stewart went 19 of 30 for 185 yards and one touchdown in Rice’s loss. The youthful Texas defense should be able to capitalize off a relatively inexperienced quarterback at the helm of a low-ranking Rice offense.

No. 33 Anthony Ekpe — Defensive end

Redshirt junior Anthony Ekpe breathes some life into the Rice defense. The defensive end from Pflugerville led the Owls last season with six sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. Ekpe can also claim credit for two forced fumbles in the 2018 season, one of which set Rice up for a fourth quarter comeback win against Prairie View A&M in Week One. The Texas offensive line has been effective in protecting junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger so far this season, but it should still key on Ekpe this weekend.

No. 10 Austin Trammell — Wide receiver

When quarterback Stewart drops back this weekend, expect junior Austin Trammell to be his main target. The Spring, Texas, native led the Owls last season in receptions and receiving yards with 62 and 632, respectively. With 383 yards on the 2018 season, Trammell also impresses as a kick returner. The All-Conference USA Honorable Mention player, who recorded a touchdown against Wake Forest last week, is regarded as Rice’s best receiver and the heartbeat of the offense. However, at just 5-foot-10, Trammell loses the height battle to several players on the Texas defense whose athleticism gives them an advantage over smaller receivers.

No. 4 Prudy Calderon — Safety

Sophomore safety Prudy Calderon is the star on the Rice defense. In eight starts, Calderon led the 2018 Owls with four interceptions, proving to be rock solid in pass coverage. At Louisiana Tech last season, the San Marcos native picked off two goal line passes, and he recovered a fumble against LSU. Calderon, who was the starting quarterback at San Marcos High School during his senior year, could utilize his knowledge of offensive schemes to his advantage against opposing quarterbacks and receivers. While Calderon has not put up big numbers to start this season with only three recorded tackles, the Texas offense should still prepare for this talented safety in order to win the turnover battle.